Gun Violence Prevention

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Rep. Eshoo respects the rights of hunters and lawful gun enthusiasts. She also believes responsible gun safety measures are vital to curbing crime, a view shared by law enforcement. Rep. Eshoo has consistently voted for measures which protect the public from crime and safeguard the rights of responsible, law abiding citizens to own firearms. The legitimate rights of gun owners and sportsmen must always be carefully weighed against the rights of others in society to live in a safe environment.

Background Checks for Gun Sales

Currently, 40 percent of gun sales are made with no background check at all, meaning millions of guns are purchased each year with no background check and no questions asked. Rep. Eshoo is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, which requires background checks for every gun sale with exceptions for transfers between family and friends. This bill is identical to the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey background check compromise that garnered 54 votes in the U.S. Senate in 2013.

Requiring a background check for every gun sale has been proven to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. A recent poll found that 91 percent of Americans believe a background check should be required for every gun sale. In that same poll, 88 percent of gun owners acknowledged that submitting to a simple, quick background check poses no threat to their Second Amendment rights.

Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines

Rep. Eshoo voted for the original ban on assault weapons in 1994, and unsuccessfully fought to renew it in 2004. Rep. Eshoo has cosponsored new legislation to restore the assault weapons ban as well as legislation to ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 30 rounds. Assault weapons and large ammunition magazines have been used in nearly every mass shooting in recent decades, including Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, and Virginia Tech. Rep. Eshoo believes that the risk that these weapons pose means they belong in the hands of the military, not in our civilian society.

The Supreme Court affirmed an individual’s Second Amendment right to firearms in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008. In that decision, the Supreme Court also made clear that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and specifically noted the constitutionality of “prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” Within these limits, the federal government can take appropriate steps to protect the public from gun violence.

Gun Trafficking

Buying a gun on behalf of someone who cannot pass a background check can have devastating consequences, but under current law it is only classified as a paperwork violation. Rep. Eshoo is a cosponsor of the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, which would increase the penalties for this practice—called “straw purchasing.” California is fortunate to have some of the most stringent state gun laws in the country, but guns are easily transported across state lines and re-sold. The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act is a bipartisan bill that will crack down on dealers who purchase guns in states with weaker gun laws and re-sell them to criminals in states like California.

Mental Health and Gun Violence Research

Rep. Eshoo has fought to improve access to mental health services and treatment for many years, including ensuring that health insurance providers cannot discriminate against those with mental illnesses. She also believes that we must take all necessary steps to increase early identification and treatment of mental illness, especially in our schools.

Because of “riders” placed in legislation by the gun lobby, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) are currently prevented from conducting research into the underlying causes of gun violence. Rep. Eshoo is a cosponsor of two bills that would ensure that researchers can study this public health crisis. H.R. 1478, the Gun Violence Research Act, removes these harmful riders from the underlying law and H.R. 1832 authorizes $10 million per year for the next five years for the purposes of conducting research on gun violence.

Executive Actions on Gun Safety

Thirty-three thousand people lost their lives to gun violence in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This number is larger than the entirety of some of the communities I represent. Even in the wake of the horrifying mass shootings of Aurora, San Bernardino, Roseburg, Charleston and Sandy Hook, Congress has failed to act.

The Republican leadership who control the House will not allow any votes to be held on sensible bipartisan bills. No debate on legislation. No votes in the full House. Saying ‘no’ to everything is not a solution. So Rep. Eshoo welcomed President Obama’s announcement on January 5, 2016 that he would take actions to help make our communities safer because Congress has failed to do so. These Executive Actions include:

  • Improvements to the existing background check system;
  • Improved enforcement of existing gun laws;
  • Improved access to mental health care and reporting to the background check system;
  • New investments in gun safety technology research.

The Executive Actions clarify that gun sellers who engage in high volume sales, resales of mint-condition guns, and immediate resales will be required to register as licensed dealers and complete background checks on all sales, including those conducted online. This will limit but not eliminate the loophole that allows an estimated 40 percent of gun sales that take place without any background checks whatsoever. Congresswoman Eshoo signed a letter in November 2015 calling on the President to take this action.

President Obama also announced that the FBI will update its background check technology and increase the number of examiners by 50 percent. This is very important because under current law, if a background check is not completed within three days, the dealer can make the sale without a check.

To ensure better reporting of mental health information into the background check system, the Social Security Administration will begin to share information with the FBI regarding individuals who are unable to manage their own benefits due to a documented mental health issue and who have been found by a court to be legally incompetent. These individuals are barred from buying a gun under current law, but this information is not always reported to the background check database.

It’s abundantly clear that we must do something to reduce gun violence by taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm or who are legally incompetent. With the safety of our streets, schools and communities at stake, Rep. Eshoo believes that President Obama’s actions were sensible, honor the Constitution and, while limited, certainly worth the effort to save lives.

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